New wildlife population software goes on-line

Tuesday 13 August 2002

New software aimed at estimating numbers of wild animal and plant populations is to be showcased to an international audience this week.

Nearly 40 wildlife managers from 16 countries – including the USA, China, Australia, India, the Netherlands and France – will attend the two workshops running from 14 until 21 August 2002.

Organised by the University of St Andrews’ Research Unit for Wildlife Population Assessment (RUWPA), one of the workshops will provide an introduction to the University-designed “Distance 4” package, while the other will offer more advanced training.

The unveiling of Distance 4 follows a five-year project funded by the Wildlife Conservation Society of New York and two UK research councils – the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council – and led by the University’s Professor Steve Buckland and Dr David Borchers and coordinated by Dr Len Thomas.

A Windows-based computer package, Distance 4 allows users to design and analyse distance sampling surveys of wildlife populations. The software is available free of charge and the previous version (Distance 3.5) has been downloaded by over 4500 people from more than 100 countries (see and click on “Who uses Distance”). Programme screen shots are available at ml.

Distance sampling is the most widely used method in the world for estimating wildlife density and abundance, having been used successfully in a diverse array of taxa, including trees, shrubs and herbs, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, fish, marine and land mammals. In both cases, the basic idea is the same. Objects within the circle or strip are counted and, by measuring distances to the objects which are observed, the probability of observing an object within the circle or strip can be estimated.

RUWPA is a contract-funded research group specialising in the development of new statistical methods and innovative applications of existing methods. The team has expertise and experience in most aspects of wildlife assessment and survey design. Ongoing research in the field of distance sampling includes the design of surveys to monitor elephant abundance in areas of Africa affected by poaching, estimation of deer abundance in Scottish forests from surveys of their dung and modelling whale abundance as a function of oceanographic and other spatial variables.


NOTE TO EDITORS – To contact Dr Len Thomas and/or Professor Steve Buckland, please telephone Rhona Rodger on 01334 463813.

Issued by Beattie Media on behalf of the University of St Andrews For more information please contact: Claire Grainger on 01334 462530, 07730 415 015 or email cg24@st- View University press releases on- line at Ref: wildlife/standrews/chg/14august2002

Category Research

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